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The Troubled Families Programme: What’s needed to deliver outcomes on school attendance and exclusion

While absenteeism is decreasing slightly in schools it is still regarded by Government as a priority area for improvement. Department for Education statistical information shows that illness is the reason most given for absenteeism and that children on free school meals and children with special educational needs have higher rates of absenteeism. However reasons for poor school attendance or truancy in a family are often very varied, ranging from poverty issues and parenting problems to a lack of understanding towards, and engagement with, the educational system. Research for the former Department of Education and Science demonstrates that a majority of the parents of children with low attendance share many of the attitudes toward education as parents whose children attend regularly. In many cases irregular school attendance is a presenting issue for multiple complex problems which are difficult to tackle effectively.

This research has demonstrated that many cases of low school attendance or truancy are the result of a parent’s difficulties in disciplining their children, and creating safe boundaries and routines at home. These parenting difficulties lead to a poor and chaotic home learning environment as well as organisational issues in respect of ensuring regular attendance at school.

These problems can arise because parents have low self*esteem, poor communication with their child, and feel unable to make their child attend school. This leaves them feeling helpless, particularly when they have repeatedly tried and failed to discipline a child. Lone parents who have experienced bad relationship breakdowns, or domestic violence, may also have developed low self*esteem, potentially leading to a dependency towards their child coupled with an over protectiveness for them. Parents’ own bad experiences of the educational system, worklessness or a lack of social confidence in the community may also leave them without the practical knowledge and ability to support their children alone.